By Shira Firestone
A well-planned and implemented security program and well-trained security team are critical to the health and vitality of any Jewish community of any size. But for a large, multi-building campus like Shalom Park, the challenges, efforts, and cost are greater than with most. A 54-acre campus that serves as the center of Jewish life in Greater Charlotte, Shalom Park is the largest Jewish communal environment in the country.
The Foundation of Shalom Park is the nonprofit agency that owns and manages the properties and facilities for most of the organizations that are located on Shalom Park, including the Levine Jewish Community Center, Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte, Jewish Family Services, Charlotte Jewish Day School, Charlotte Jewish Preschool, and many more, and provides security and safety support and training for Temple Israel and Temple Beth El. Each year at this time, the Foundation asks for the support of the community it protects to contribute to the Shalom Park Security Fund.
To meet the security needs of such a large complex, Shalom Park Security has developed a professional security team comprising retired (CMPD) officers, military veterans, and corporate security professionals. They are visible whenever you visit the Park — for work, school, recreation, or worship. But to appreciate the significance of their impact and the importance of the security fund, it is necessary to understand the unseen responsibilities and efforts of the security team — a look beyond the uniforms and badges.
There’s no doubt that the physical safety of everyone on the Park from outside threats is a critical piece of what they do. This is particularly challenging as incidents occur with little or no warning and at non-standard times. For this reason, they coordinate closely with the Charlotte Mecklenberg Police Department (CMPD), Department of Homeland Security, Joint Terrorism Task Force, and FBI, staying abreast of potential threats and gathering intelligence. They also provide bomb threat, hostage, and active shooter training to all agencies on the Park.
However, mitigation and protection from unseen, non-violent events are also a priority. Preparation for extreme weather, utility failure, and fire are all a part of what they do. Training is mandatory for all staff and many volunteers on the Park. Fire, shelter-in-place, and lockdown drills occur regularly. Not all the risks to those on the park are sudden and dramatic. Consider the importance of traffic flow, especially for drop-off and pickup for schools and camps and when special events and holidays bring large numbers of visitors to the Park. The logistics to coordinate with CMPD resources and guards is significant. Consider CPR, first aid, and AED training provided to schools. It is security that provides background checks on all employees and volunteers, and will soon be implementing a program that will require child abuse prevention training to anyone working with children.
No one predicted that the role of security would be to protect the health of every individual on the Park from a global pandemic. Immediate coordination on a large scale was necessary to respond to a rapidly-changing situation at the beginning of the pandemic and to institute and enforce COVID protocols. As the pandemic drags on, it is security that continues to conduct COVID training, health screening, and COVID testing for employees on the Park.
Not surprisingly, the scope of these critical services requires substantial resources. The agencies and organizations on the Park each participate to financially support the security from which they benefit. Contributing to the Security Fund will not only help ensure that these services continue to be superior , but can also lessen the financial burden of agencies that are so often already trying to balance their own precarious budgets.